So tell me about yourself…

We had a couple of marathon interviewing days this week. I love interviewing. For a number of good reasons but mostly it is because I find people so interesting. How people ended up here, or there or wherever … doing what they are doing, living, experience, interests – the whole gamut. Now, admittedly, there have been the interviews that well –it’s an hour of my life that I will never get back – but fortunately for me those are few and far between.

Many times our interviews become wonderful and funny – an exchange of ideas, skills and abilities, needs and desires from the candidate and my employer. Even when we don’t hire an individual for a position, I have ended up with staying in touch with many of them well, just because. Because they are neat. Because they have fabulous ability but not the right match for me but could be for others. Because I love to network and connect. That because.

We have a lot of the standard interviewing fare. But hand’s down, my favorite question is, tell me about yourself. No parameters. No specifics. Some of the more concrete candidates (and those who don’t live so well in the ambiguous world) want clarification. Others ask questions about the question. This question brings forth interesting and enlightening information about the person the candidate is. What they think is important to share. Sometimes it’s standard and stoic. Other times it’s fascinating and intriguing. Like the professional football player. The former Ms State (I won’t give it away). A farmer. World traveler.

An exercise that I encourage people interviewing is to think about this question and practice answering it. There are of course the standard work-related questions that people need too but this is a great question to to formulate your story. I have always wondered what it would be like to hear people answer with what they REALLY wanted to say….not just work stuff but who they are outside the office walls. This would make it much more fun.

So my professional response.
Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, professional certification, blah, blah.
Experience in – employment, immigration, compensation, yada, yada.
Strengths, weaknesses…blah, blah, yada, yada.
References, professional presentations, etc, etc.
Boring, yawn. Yes I can do the job.

And my less-than-professional response.
I take others seriously but not myself.
I am really funny. Just ask me and I will tell you.
I have traveled all over the world. I prefer places with indoor plumbing.
I am flypaper for freaks. People will tell me anything even when I am just trying to buy milk.
I gave a home to a dog that had been abandoned. I think you should too.
If you put on a blinker, I will gladly let you in.
If I find your wallet full of cash, you will get it all back.
I am the person you can call at 2am.
I share my stuff but hoard my time.
I listen. But this can always be improved.
I am sometimes impatient. You need to keep up.
I will tell you the truth.
If you don’t like the Red Wings, I won’t work with you. Really. Ambivalence I can handle.
And for those of you who remember this bumper sticker genre, I would rather be taking pictures.

I know, I know – its about the job. The skills. The abilities. The education. The understanding how people have behaved in previous positions that predict future behavior. But really, which is the better interview? And how would you answer?

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